Reasonable observers of this year’s senior county championship wouldn’t be too happy with the fare served up so far. At a personal level I am hugely disappointed not to be involved in the county final with Crossmolina. I am not being disrespectful to any team when I suggest that I thought we would have made the final, particularly having beaten Ballaghaderreen in the quarter final. Several fancied outfits, other than us had their frailties exposed too when push came to shove.
The fluctuations in form of a few club sides including my own, Crossmolina, came home to roost when consistency was required for the home run. However we cannot but admire the consistency of both finalists who compete for honours on Sunday. Both Knockmore and Charlestown have produced when it mattered most and deservedly get to showcase their talents on Sunday’s TG4 televised final. Some will suggest that Charlestown might be a little lucky to have progressed to the final as they didn’t play particularly well in their victory over Castlebar. The reality is they didn’t have to as they just had that little bit of guile and experience to see them home.
I have a hunch we will have a good county final this weekend. Nigel Reape, the Knockmore manager drew from his team their best performance in this year’s championship when beating their great rivals Crossmolina. Players that had sporadic form prior to this match appeared inspired not alone by the occasion, or the desire to do themselves justice, but simply the desire to pull one over their neighbours. The prospect of another big display from Knockmore in the final is very much on the cards, even if they have to line out without two of their big guns up front, Aiden Kilcoyne and Damien Munnelly. It is particularly tough on these two lads and at a personal level I genuinely feel sorry for both, as they were involved with Mayo under 21 and senior teams in my time and there are wonderful lads.
Knockmore are quite brilliant at playing a sticky, focused defending game and in a blink they can move to free-flowing breaks from deep with slick interpassing movement to precise finishing. I know, as we were on the receiving end of it in the semi-final.
Notice, I haven’t mentioned a word yet about Kevin O’Neill and what he might bring to the occasion. I suspect the experienced Aidan Higgins will be deployed to pick him up on Sunday and that just might limit O’Neill’s influence from open play. However it is his free taking that will be of greater significance on the day. He is a master craftsman in this department and I would assume we won’t see any lazy tackling from Charlestown defenders. Charlestown will have other pressures to deal with too on the day. Quite a few of their marquee players are nearing the end of the road and they will realise more than most that this could possibly be their last chance of touching glory at this level. The collective experience, the drive and the ambition of ‘Ginger Tiernan’ and his well intentioned lieutenants might just be about enough to see them home. Then again this young Knockmore side looks hungry and ambitious too.
I received a telephone call from my Eoin Sweeney last Sunday evening. I knew he was calling with bad news. I had heard earlier that his side Belmullet was well beaten by Tourmakedy in the Intermediate semi-final. He was hugely disappointed as like most managers, coaches/trainers he could only see one team winning the Intermediate title this year, his own team, Belmullet. In fairness he did say that they had no excuses as they were well beaten by better footballing side. I haven’t seen Tourmakeady play this year but I have seen Westport play as Crossmolina played them in a league match some months ago. I was really impressed with the quality of their play that Saturday evening and I left Westport convinced they would have a major say in where the Intermediate crown would rest this year. They have a lot of young skilful players who have tasted a certain amount of success at underage level. It will be an interesting clash of youth versus experience and I am looking forward to what will hopefully be a cracker.
I had a few gentlemen in my office earlier today that happen to be from Mallow, Co Cork. They realised I had an interest in football and went on to tell me about the excellent facilities they have in their local club. Apparently a few years ago a local business man made them an offer they couldn’t refuse for their GAA club. It obviously had development potential in a central location within the town at the height of the boom. After selling their old ground they are now the proud owner’s of a brand new state of the art facility that cost approximately €14 million to build. Apparently they have no outstanding debt on their new grounds. It contains several ‘Prunty’ pitches, astro turf pitches, an enormous indoor pitch and a suite of weight rooms and ancillary facilities. Oh, I forgot to mention that the developer who bought their original ground has given it to the local rugby club for their use. Everyone isn’t a loser in this downturn.